Reach out and check suicide

Calcutta: A patient and non-judgmental hearing can bring a person back from the brink of suicide, volunteers for a suicide prevention helpline said at a conference on World Suicide Prevention Day on Monday.

A person about to commit suicide often looks for a person to share their problems with till the last moment and it is important for those around them to recognise the signs of distress and listen to their worries.

India records around 2.35 lakh suicides every year, according to the Indian Psychiatry Society. Bengal tops in the number of people committing suicide in the 15-30 age group. The most common causes are loneliness, fear of failure, problems in love life and terminal illness.

The World Health Organisation has made Working Together to Prevent Suicide the theme on the 14th commemoration of World Suicide Prevention Day day this year.

"Research tells us that for every suicide that happens, there are at least 20 attempts that did not succeed. The survivors say they had been looking for someone to confide in. Some even set themselves a deadline to find such a person, or for someone to stop them," said Mira Kekkar, one of the "befrienders" who take calls at Lifeline, a helpline that has been operating in the city since 1998.

Lifeline, which can be reached on 24637401 and 24637432, also offers free face-to-face sessions by appointment.

A refrain among people contemplating suicide is that they want to go off somewhere far away or that sleep forever.

But different people may act differently. Elderly people contemplating suicide often make a will, start to put their financial papers in order and sometimes visit relatives whom they have not visited in a long time. They sometimes ask to be forgiven for something that happened in the past.

The youth, on the other hand, can become aggressive, sleep for long hours or become repressive.

Lakshmi Vijayakumar, consultant psychiatrist from Chennai and member of the World Health Organisation's International Network for Suicide Prevention and Research, said those planning to commit suicide are almost always in two minds and if they can find a compassionate person to listen to them, they can often tide over that phase.

If the depression persists, they must be encouraged to consult a psychologist or psychiatrist, Vijayakumar said on the sidelines of a seminar organised by the Indian Psychiatric Society Speciality Section on Suicide Prevention on Wednesday.

"It is significant that 80 per cent of those who commit suicide tell someone that they feel like committing suicide. Often, they are not taken seriously and that pushes them towards suicide. But if someone listens to them, they can be prevented," said Vijayakumar.


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